US government policy has been chipping away at the social safety net for many years now. What it seems to be replaced by is an ever growing net of official government secrecy and security. Before Edward Snowden made his dramatic appearance on the scene there had been a growing number of people expressing concern about the Obama administration's attempts to cloak more and more of its operations in state secrecy.
They have used the 1917 Espionage Act seven times to prosecute whistle blowers. This is a greater use of this rather vague law than has occurred in all other administrations combined. There have been at least two attempts to use threats of prosecution to intimidate the media in its reporting of information.
It is certainly understandable that the revelations about the activities of the NSA are capturing the overwhelming share of public attention. They make a huge blip on the radar screen all by themselves. However, there continues to be a steady drip of information that raises serious doubt about their claims that all of this is necessary to protect the American public from terrorist attacks. We now see the invocation of state secrets being extended to the negotiation of trade agreements.
Progressive Democrats in Congress are ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to release the text of Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive free trade agreement with 10 other nations, amid intensifying controversy over the administration's transparency record and its treatment of classified information.
"This, more than anything, shows the abuse of the classified information system," Grayson told HuffPost. "They maintain that the text is classified information. And I get clearance because I'm a member of Congress, but now they tell me that they don't want me to talk to anybody about it because if I did, I'd be releasing classified information."The negotiation of trade treaties is a laborious and technical matter. It is the kind of thing that makes most people's eyes glaze over and there is seldom a crowd clamoring at the gate for more details. NAFTA which was supported by the Clinton administration was perhaps the only exception to this. Despite the heated political debate surrounding it, I don't recall government claims that the negotiations were classified information.
How and why the administration decides to make information classified has come under intense scrutiny in recent months, after the Associated Press learned that the Department of Justice had been monitoring the records of more than 20 phone numbers -- including the personal phones of reporters and editors -- as part of a government leak investigation. Edward Snowden's recent disclosures of two broad National Security Agency surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post have sparked a heated debate over what kinds of leaks should be prosecuted as criminal.
The United States government classification system is established under Executive Order 13526, the latest in a long series of executive orders on the topic. Issued by President Barack Obama in 2009, Executive Order 13526 replaced earlier executive orders on the topic and modified the regulations codified to 32 C.F.R. 2001. It lays out the system of classification, declassification, and handling of national security information generated by the U.S. government and its employees and contractors, as well as information received from other governments.So what is it about this particular trade agreement that poses a clear and present threat to the national security of the United States of America?
The TPP is ostensibly intended to be a "high-standard" agreement specifically aimed at emerging trade issues in the 21st century. These ongoing negotiations have drawn criticism and protest from the public, advocacy groups, and elected officials, in part due to the secrecy of the negotiations, the expansive scope of the agreement, and a number of controversial clauses in drafts leaked to the public.The main area of controversy are the provisions about intellectual property rights that the US government is attempting to include in the agreement. The above link discusses that is some detail. Essentially the US government is advocating for the interest of the US based multi-national corporations and their financial interests. You know, like Apple, that parks its money in Ireland and doesn't pay taxes on it.
The issue that I am attempting to address here is not the specific merits or lack thereof of this particular trade agreement, but the assertion by the present government of the power to keep its activities protected from public scrutiny. We have here the same problem that we have with NSA. If we can't know information about what is going on, we can't make judgements about the justifiable need for secrecy. I find it highly implausible that anything to do with intellectual property rights could ever reasonably be deemed to be classified information.
This is just one more piece in an ever growing pattern. This is happening on Obama's watch so his name is clearly associated with the troubling trend, but it was going on before he became president and unless aggressive steps are taken to make corrections, it will continue to grow after he's gone.